150 Piccadilly, London, England, W1J 9BR, United Kingdom

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Chef interview

John Williams MBE is the head chef of the Ritz Hotel in London.

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The Ritz dining room has been its grand self since 1906, all marble, mirrors and gold leaf, with large widely spaced tables and thick carpet. It must surely be a candidate for the grandest dining room in London. We opted for the full tasting menu but there are several menu choices here including a la carte, and a cheaper lunch menu on certain days of the week. I have written previously at some length about the extensive wine list.

To begin with there was a pair of canapes on a tray, to be followed by an array of further canapes. The initial ones were Parmesan mousse with Kalamata black olives and basil, alongside duck liver parfait with sour cherry and gingerbread. Both these had excellent balance, the olives working well with the cheese, and the cherry’s sharpness pairing well with the rich duck liver. Croustade of crab with lemon and radish was the next canape. This had oyster bavarois topped with white Dorset crab meat seasoned with lemon, salt, espelette pepper and a little mayonnaise, the dish being completed with a julienne of radish, fresh Menton lemon zest and bellis daisies, flowers with a subtle, slightly bitter taste. The crab had lovely natural sweetness that was nicely balanced by the lemon. Beef tartare came in a crisp pate de brik case accompanied by piped crème fraiche that had been whipped and seasoned, the dish finished with an oyster leaf and a layer of oscietra caviar. This is a classy canape, the brininess of the caviar acting as a natural seasoning for the beef. Isle of Mull scallop was served as raw slices of shellfish in a thin jelly made from rice wine, topped with fennel pollen, hysopp flowers and shiso flowers. A dressing made from soy sauce, olive oil, sugar, salt bergamot and citrus is poured over the little dish at the table. This is a very pretty amuse bouche that showcases a top ingredient (canapes average 18/20).

Ballotine of duck liver is a dish that I have had many times here and it is a delight. The Landes duck liver is deveined and marinated in pink salt, sugar, pepper, salt, port, Sauternes and Armagnac. It comes simply with a micro salad and some excellent toasted brioche. The ballotine had superb texture and deep liver flavour, a fine example of classical French cooking. It is hard to find any real fault with this dish (19/20).

Langoustine a la nage has been a signature of the restaurant for some time. Large langoustines from the coast of Scotland are poached in butter and served with cauliflower puree, bronze fennel and Baby Cornish vegetables and herbs. The langoustine was a top quality ingredient but the dish works so well because the vegetables bring lovely balance to the richness of the seafood nage. This is a dish, when executed as well as it is here, that would shine in any restaurant (19/20). 

Savoury custard acted as the base for shavings of white truffle. The egg custard was made with cream, milk, kombu and Parmesan, then whisked with 36 month aged Parmesan foam with a little truffle sauce. On the side was a warm gougere of gruyere and truffle. The gougere had plenty of cheese flavour and good choux pastry. The custard had smooth texture, and the white truffle (from Alba) shavings brought their distinct earthy fragrance. This was a relatively simple but very enjoyable dish (17/20).

Sika deer with parsnip and juniper was the final savoury course. To complement the meat, baby parsnip was glazed in honey from the Ritz’s own beehives. Pear was poached in pear juice, juniper, pine needles and Poire William. There was also a little baby turnip. The deer was topped with a mix of pink peppercorns, Sarawak peppercorns and orange zest. A sauce made from the cooking juices of the venison and infused with juniper completed the dish. The venison deer (from the Brett Graham farm) had excellent flavour and was precisely cooked, with the rich sauce enlivened by the kick of the peppercorns. The turnip added an earthiness and the poached pear added some welcome acidity to balance the richness of the jus (18/20).

Lemon curds, lemon confit and lemon sorbet came with a Moscato d’Asti foam and lemon zest. Pre-desserts should be refreshing and this one fitted the bill nicely, the acidity of the various lemon elements worked well with the foam and avoided being overly sharp (18/20). The main dessert was an elegant creation, a milk chocolate parfait. There was a layer of homemade fudge with vanilla sable and chocolate parfait, topped with puff pastry wafers and chocolate cremeux. This was all topped with a sugar tuile filled with vanilla ice cream. This pretty dish had a pleasing blend of textures from its various elements, and although enjoyably rich it was not overly so (18/20). I finished the meal with a tea infusion that came with excellent petit fours of dark chocolate and hazelnut praline, vanilla macaroon, hazelnut praline and grapefruit pate de fruits.

Service was lovely, the staff being attentive and helpful throughout the meal, with flawless drinks topping up. The bill came to £375 per person with copious good wine. If you instead took advantage of the cheap lunch menu and shared a modest bottle then you could end up with a bill of perhaps £150 per person. This was another lovely meal here, featuring top quality ingredients, fine technical skills shown in the sauces and desserts for example, and all in a glorious room with impeccable service. For me, you can’t eat better than this in London.


Further reviews: 28th Mar 2024 | 02nd Feb 2024 | 01st Nov 2023 | 24th Sep 2023 | 26th Jun 2023 | 10th May 2023 | 08th Mar 2023 | 09th Dec 2022 | 04th Nov 2022 | 30th Sep 2022 | 20th Jul 2022 | 24th Jun 2022 | 15th Apr 2022 | 08th Feb 2022 | 14th Dec 2021 | 06th Dec 2021 | 22nd Oct 2021 | 14th Oct 2021 | 25th Jun 2021 | 25th May 2021 | 15th Oct 2020 | 28th Aug 2020 | 31st Jul 2020 | 29th Feb 2020 | 19th Nov 2019 | 25th Oct 2019 | 30th Sep 2019 | 30th Aug 2019 | 16th Jul 2019 | 18th Apr 2019 | 12th Mar 2019 | 26th Sep 2018 | 01st Aug 2018 | 04th May 2018 | 20th Apr 2018 | 13th Feb 2018 | 11th Dec 2017 | 02nd Feb 2017 | 15th Jun 2016 | 27th Jan 2016 | 26th Aug 2015 | 28th Feb 2015 | 21st Dec 2013 | 24th Aug 2013 | 30th Apr 2013 | 29th Dec 2011 | 01st Feb 2011 | 01st Dec 2010

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  • Jla

    It is a deeper mystery than the origin of Machu Picchu why the Ritz has only one Michelin star. Certainly the best classical food in London and in my view largely as good as many three stars, As nice as Ritz was a place more than 20 years ago, the Connaught when the head chef was the late Michel Bourdin.

  • Brian McMillan

    Looking forward to another visit in January, as always a great educational review, definitely deserves 2 stars ???????